Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Charlaine Harris "Dead Until Dark"

I finally finished the first in the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. Everyone has liked them so I'm sure this won't be a huge addition to the online opinion pages to say, fun book, quirky characters, nice line walked between small town realism and vampire paranormalism, more mystery than classic romance novel.

But I can't let it go at that when Jessica has been posting notes on such interesting academic opinions about Sookie. I thought about really sitting down and thoroughly reviewing the points the papers were trying to make and composing a thoughtful response, but I'd rather go off half cocked. So much more fun.
This note: "Sookie is no more heroine or protagonist than Bella. She’s a vehicle by which men establish a hierarchy. Female characters are employed as eroticized figures of exchange for male characters." and this:
"Sookie is in [sic] center of action, but not an independent actor. She is aided by many characters..."

(*spoiler alert*)
I have only read the first book and it's clear that the professionals writing these papers were talking about the series and also the television series....but, Sookie is more 'down home' than stupid and in scene number one she heads out to the parking lot with a chain (for god's sake) and saves vampire Bill from some nefarious vampire drainers. Then in the climax to the first book she survives an attack by the mysterious murderer, with help from Bill's blood, yes, but mostly based on her grit and quick thinking, taking his own knife off his belt and stabbing him. This is an eroticized figure of exchange who is not an independent actor?

Now I'll understand if the rest of the series she becomes a tasty mind-reading doormat, but I guess it would surprise me based on the people who keep reading the books and saying they like them so much.

Vampire Paranormal Mystery 2001: 4 of 5 infusions of supercharged blood.


Rene said...

So I went over to Jessica's site and read the post and I'm still trying to figure out how people got so much meaning out of genre fiction.

I've read the Sookie books and I love them. I don't, however, take social cues from them.

I can see the quote you used being applied to "True Blood." It's an HBO show so there is plenty of T & A on it.

I read the "Dead Until Dark" because I needed a break from Anita Blake. Sookie is not a kick butt heroine but I do think she emulates a lot more of the qualities real people have.

Are you going to read any more?

Kate said...

A-ha! I was curious to see what you'd think of this one (I haven't read it and am on the fence, regardless of lots of good reviews out there.) I'll only add that I've only read Twilight and you couldn't pay me enough money to read the rest of them, and I can definitely agree with whoever said that Bella is a "vehicle by which men establish a hierarchy". Geez, I wish I were that smart.

Heloise said...

Rene: I'm not sure if I will read more of the Sookie books. I liked the book a lot but I didn't love it, although that's probably a case of too high expectations. I also read Twilight and enjoyed it but never needed to pick up the second book. Again, compared to the online hype, I found it enjoyable if you didn't think too hard about it. :)

Kate: Just for clarity, I do think the Sookie books have more going for them than Twilight. :) And I suppose if the paper was talking more about Bella than Sookie I could have gone with the 'being acted upon, eroticized vehicle' (it's great to be a hack, not an academic, and mess up quotes from others.)

And dear, I read your stuff, you are that smart. Anyway, you know as well as I do that knowing how to talk the talk in your field of research isn't all about being smart, mostly it's about being in academics long enough. No offense to academics, they put in a lot of time to be able to talk that way, but being in classes with freshman and sophomores again as an older student, they are at a language disadvantage that isn't entirely their fault. My advantage is primarily experience based.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Sookie ever becomes a doormat. I think she's very strong all the way through book 8.

Glad you gave it a try! I do think that if the first one didn't hook you, the later ones are very similar, so you might be making a smart move leaving it at the one.

and I think you can get just as much "meaning" out of genre fiction as out of literary fiction. You can certainly enjoy genre fiction without analyzing it, and most people, including academics, usually do. But I appreciate their insisting that just because something is pop culture doesn't mean it is meaningless. I actually think pop fiction probably has more social influence, due to its mass consumption, than other texts.

Kate said...

Jessica - and Heloise - and anyone else out there interested - do you ever/have you ever read Bitch magazine? It's a publication of a non-profit that examines a feminist response to pop culture. I can't help but to think of my little blogging community every time I'm at their website. I would love it if they addressed romance novels someday.

And Jessica, I think you're entirely right about pop culture having more influence due to its mass consumption. I've never seen a reason to treat a piece of pop culture as so much fluff (ok, except X-Men - that's all about Hugh Jackman for me) when it's something that's entering my brain for consideration. That's one of the reasons I'm glad I took up reviewing - it really makes me take a close look and genuinely consider what I'm putting into my head.